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Thoughts on Leadership

  • Writer's picturePhysician Leader Group

What Is Physician Executive Coaching Anyway?

In my practice of coaching physicians, I often am approached by people who are curious to learn what I do ... what exactly I do as a Physician Executive Coach, and how I help professionals very similar to themselves get through challenging phases in their lives and careers.

Since that question comes up a lot, I thought I might just write a little bit about that - to hopefully clarify what coaching is about, and clear up any possible misconceptions that exist out there about what we do and what can be accomplished by partnering with a coach.

First of all, it is important to recognize that executive coaching is not a new thing! While itis relatively new to the world of healthcare and physicians, it is something that has been the "secret weapon" for many executives and professionals worldwide who have desired to enhance their performance and reap the benefits of greater self-awareness, greater skill, and greater professional relationships/alliances. You would be hard pressed to find an executive in any industry in the U.K./Europe who has not worked with a coach in the past, and this trend is continuing here in the U.S. as more and more people get well-versed with what coaching is and what it can help them to accomplish in an accelerated way.

So what is coaching and how does it relate to you, a physician?

In short: Physician Executive Coaching is a partnership between an individual physician and an executive coach and sometimes a sponsoring healthcare organization. Coaching is aimed at enhancing individual learning and development while achieving agreed-upon personal and professional goals. It is often positioned for docs who are wanting extra support and/or skill development to address a particular professional challenge, or by docs interested in taking their already high performance to the next level (e.g.,outside of clinical work or into a leadership role).

And to answer some of your specific questions, Physician Executive Coaching IS:

  • A series of action-oriented, one-on-one interactions between a physician and coach with the goal of accelerating the professional development of the individual

  • A structured, process-driven relationship that uses validated change models and techniques to help individuals by:

  • Assessing their needs

  • Examining their values

  • Understanding their motivations

  • Developing their competencies and skills

  • Removing “blocks” / enhancing their performance

  • Achieving sustainable professional change

  • A structured means by which individual physicians can change and improve behaviors

  • A structured means by which individual physicians can plan and implement specific professional transitions

  • A relationship based on mutual respect, mutual trust, and freedom of expression, in which both the individual physician and the coach are engaged in learning

And, Physician Executive Coaching is NOT:

  • Psychotherapy

  • Performance Management

  • Motivating or cheerleading

  • “Touchy-feely”

  • Necessarily remedial

  • A replacement for the manager’s / administrator’s role

  • Something that is done for you by the coach

How exactly does coaching work?

Coaching works through the provision of insight, information, tools, guidance and feedback to the individual physician during the coaching process. Through regular calls or in-person meetings over the course of a period of time (typically 4-6 months initially), coaching work specifically:

  • Helps the individual physician clarify objectives and goals

  • Aligns values, goals and actions

  • Offers support and challenge, and keeps individuals accountable

  • Gives the individual the platform for exploring and testing new behaviors

  • Provides objective feedback, a “sounding board”, support and encouragement

  • Highlights choice and self-responsibility

What learning tools are accessed in the coaching process?

Tools that you can expect to gain over the course of the coaching work may include:

  • Strategic planning

  • Goal planning

  • Making effective choices

  • How to challenge self-limiting beliefs

  • Managing emotions

  • Developing EQ (Emotional Intelligence)

  • Problem-solving techniques

  • Developing new ways to communicate / interact with peers

  • Enhancing current competencies

What are the benefits of Physician Executive Coaching?

This is a question that I get from a lot of people - what is their "ROI" (Return on Investment) from coaching? In my experience, the benefits of partnering with a coach to explore and enact professional change within a structured setting are many, and include (but are not limited to):

  • New skill development (via the identification and bridging of skill “gaps”)

  • Development or expansion of leadership skills

  • Long-term performance improvement

  • Enhancement of interpersonal relationships and communication skills

  • Team building skills and better team functioning

  • Career development and professional fulfillment

  • Increased productivity

  • Increased career satisfaction

  • Obtainment of important feedback to accelerate growth and development

So there you have it - hopefully this provides you with an overview of what physician executive coaching is and can do for the professional who is ready for it.

If you would like to get a handout on the topic of Physician Executive Coaching that includes all of this information, or would like to speak to us directly about your needs, feel free to email me at

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